Edmund Gosse.

The collected works of Henrik Ibsen, Volume 1 online

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ACTiu] LOVE'S COMEDY 4«9

Falk.
[Approaching Syakoild, who comes to meet him.]

One moment's ours, my Svanhild, in the light

Of God and of the lustrous summer night.

How the stars glitter thro' the leafage, see.

Like bright fruit hanging on the great world-tree.

Now slavery's last manacle I slip.

Now for the last time feel the wealing whip;

Like Israel at the Passover I stand,

Loins girded for the desert, sta£F in hand.

Dull generation, from whose sight is hid

The Promised Land beyond that desert flight.

Thrall tricked with knighthood, never the more

knight.
Tomb thyself kinglike in the Pyramid, —
I cross the barren desert to be free.
My ship strides on despite an ebbing sea;
But there the Legion Lie shall find its doom.
And glut one deep, dark, hoUow-vaulted tomb.

[A short pause; he looks at her and takes her hand.
You are so still!

SVANHILD.

So happy! Suffer me,
O suffer me in silence still to dream.
Speak you for me; my budding thoughts, grown

strong,
One after one will burgeon into song.
Like lilies in the bosom of the stream.

Falk.

O say it once again, in truth's pure tone
Beyond the fear of doubt, that thou art mine!
O say it, Svanhild, say —



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430 LOVE'S COMEDY [act ra

Stanhild.
[Thravnng herself on his neck.]

Yes» I am thine!

Falk.
Thou singing-bird God sent me for my own!

SVANHILD.

Homeless within my mother's house I dwelt.

Lonely in all I thought, in all I felt,

A guest unbidden at the feast of mirth, —

Accounted nothing — less than nothing — ^worth.

Then you appeared ! For the first time I heard

My own thought uttered in another's word;

To my lame visions you gave wings and feet —

You young unmasker of the Obsolete!

Half with your caustic keenness you alarmed me.

Half with your radiant eloquence you charmed me»

As sea-girt forests summon with their spell

The sea their flinty beaches still repel.

Now I have read the bottom of your soul.

Now you have won me, undivided, whole;

Dear forest, where my tossing billows beat.

My tide's at flood and never will retreat!

Falk.

And I thank God that in the bath of Pain

He purged my love. What strong compulsion drew

Me on I knew not, till I saw in you

The treasure I had blindly sought in vain.

I praise Him, who our love has lifted thus

To noble rank by sorrow, — licensed us



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ACTui] LOVE'S COMEDY 431

To a triumphal progress, bade us sweep
Thro' fen and forest to our castle-keep,
A noble pair, astride on Pegasus!

SVANHILD.

[Pointing to the house.]

The whole house, see, is making feast to-night*
There, in their honour, eveiy room's alight.
There cheerful talk and joyous song ring out;
On the highroad no passer-by will doubt
That men are happy where they are so gay.

[With compiusion.
Poor sister! — happy in the great world's way!

Falk.
"Poor" sister, say you ?

SVANHILD.

Has she not divided
With kith and kin the treasure of her soul.
Her capital to fifty hands confided.
So that not one is debtor for the whole ?
From no one has she a 1 1 things to receive.
For no one has she utterly to live.

beside m y wealth hers is little worth;

1 have but one possession upon earth.

My heart was lordless when with trumpet blare
And multitudinous song you came, its king.
The banners of my thought your ensign bear.
You fill my soul with glory, like the spring.
Yes, I must needs thank God, when it is past.
That I was lonely till I found out thee, —
That I lay dead until the trumpet blast
Waken *d me from the world's frivolitj\



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482 LOVE'S COMEDY [Acrm

Falk.

Yes we, who have no friends on earth» we twain
Own the true wealth, the golden fortune, — ^we
Who stand without, beside the stariit sea.
And watch the indoor revel thro* the pane.
Let the lamp glitter and the song resound.
Let the dance madly eddy round and round; —
Look up, my Svanhild, into yon deep blue, —
There glitter little lamps in thousands, too —

Svanhild.

And hark, beloved, thro' the limes there floats
This balmy eve a chorus of sweet notes —

Falk.
It is for us that fretted vault's aglow —

Svanhild.
It is for us the vale is loud below!

Falk.

I feel myself like God's lost prodigal;
I left Him for the world's delusive charms.
With mild reproof He wooed me to His arms;
And when I come. He lights the vaulted hall.
Prepares a banquet for the son restored,
And makes His noblest creature my reward.
From this time forth I'll never leave that Light,—
But stand its armed defender in the fight;
Nothing shall part us, and our life shall prove
A song of glory to triumphant love!



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ACTin] LOVE'S COMEDY 43S

SVANHILD.

And see how easy triumph is for iwo»
When he's a man —

Falk.

She, woman thro* and thro';—
It is impossible for such to fall!

SVANHILD.

Then up, and to the war with want and sorrow;
This very hour I will declare it all!

[Poiniing to Falk's ring on her finger

Falk.

No, Svanhild, not to-night, wait till to-morrow!
To-night we gather our young love's red rose;
'Twere sacrilege to smirch it with the prose
Of common day.

[The door into the garden-room opens.
Your mother's coming! Hide!
No eye this night shall see thee as my bride!

[They go out among the trees by the summer-
fumse. Mrs. Halm and Guldotad com^^ui
on the balcony.

Mbs. Halic.
He's really going ?

GULDSTAD.

Seems so, I admit.



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434 LOVE'S COMEDY [actui

SnvEB.
[CanUng.]

He'8 goiogy madam!

Mbs. Halm.

We're aware of it!

SnvEB.

A most unfortunate punctilio.
He'll keep his word; his stubbornness I know.
In the Gazette he'll put us all by name;
My love will figure under leaded headings,
With jilts, and twins, and countermanded wed*

dings.
Listen; I tell you, if it weren't for shame,
I would propose an armistice, a truce —

Mbs. Halm.
You think he would be willing ?

SnvEB.

I deduce
The fact from certain signs, which indicate
That his tall talk about his Amor's News
Was uttered in a far from sober state.
One proof especially, if not transcendent.
Yet tells most heavily against defendant:
It has been deariy proved that after dinner
To his and Lind's joint chamber he withdrew.
And there displayed such singular demeanour
As leaves no question —



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ACT ml LOVE'S COMEDY 485

GULDOTAD.

[Sees a glimpse of Falk and Stanhild, who eeparaie^
Falk going to the background; Stanhild remains
standing hidden by the summer-house.]

Hold, we have the due!
Madam» one word! — Falk does not mean to go»
Or if he does, he means it as a friend.

Stiver.
How, you believe then — ?

Mbs. Halm.

What do you intend ?

GuLDOTAD.

With the least possible delay I'll show
That matters move precisely as you would.
Merely a word in private —

Mbs. Halm.

Very good.
[They go together into the garden and are seen
from time to time in lively conversation.

Sttveb.

[Descending into the garden discovers Faijl» who is
standing by the water and gazing over ii.]
These poets are mere men of vengeance, we
State servants understand diplomacy.
I need to labour for myself —

[Seeing Strawman> who enters from the garden'
room.

Well met!



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486 LOVE'S COMEDY [Acrm

Strawman.
[On tiu verandah.]

He*8 reaOy leaving!

[Ooing down to Smrwau

Ah, my dear sir, let
Me beg you just a moment to go in
And hold my wife —

SnvER,

I — hold her, sir?

Stbawman.

I mean
In talk. The little ones and we are so
Unused to be dinded, there is no
Escaping —

[His wife and children appear in the door.
Ha! already on my trail.

Mrs. Strawman.
Where are you, Strawman ?

Strawman.

[Aside to Stiver.]

Do invent some tale.
Something amusing — something to beguile!

Stiver.

[Going on to the verandah.]

Pray, madam, have you read the official charge?
A masterpiece of literary style.

[Takes a book from his pocket



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ACPra] LOVE'S COMEDY 487

Which I shall now proceed to cite at large.

[Ushers her poUisly inio the room^ and follows
himself. Vmjl comes forward; he and Stbaw-
MAN meet; they regard one another a moment
in silence.



Well?


WeU?


Strawbian.

Falk.

Strawmah.
Falk!

Falk.
Pastor!






Strawman.

Are
Intractable than when we parted ?


you


less



Falk

Nay,
I go my own inexorable way —

Strawman.
Even tho' you crush another's happiness?

Falk.

I plant the flower of knowledge in its place.

[Smiling.
If, by the way, you have not ceased to think
Of the Gazette—



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488 LOVE'S COMEDY [act m

Stbawman.
Ah, that was all a joke ?

Falk.

Yes, pluck up courage, that will turn to smoke;
I break the ice in action, not in ink.

Stbawman.

But even though you spare me, sure enough
There's one who won't so lightly let me oflf;
He has the advantage, and he won't forego it.
That lawyer's clerk — ^and 'tis to you I owe it;
You raked the ashes of our faded flames.
And you may take your oath he won't be still
If once I mutter but a syllable
Against the brazen bluster of his claims.
These civil-service gentlemen, they say.
Are very potent in the press to-day.
A trumpery paragraph can lay me low.
Once printed in that Samson-like Gazette
That with the jaw of asses fells its foe.
And runs away with tackle and with net.
Especially towards the quarter day —

Falk.
[Acquiescing.]
Ah, were there scandal in the case, indeed —

Strawman.

[Despondently.]

No matter. Read its columns with good heed.
You'll see me offered up to Vengeance.



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Acrra] LOVE'S COMEDY 480

Faul.

[Whimsically.]

Nay.
To retribution — well-earned punishment.
Thro' all our life there runs a Nemesis,
Which may delay, but never will relent.
And grants to none exception or release.
Who wrongs the Ideal ? Straight there rushes in
The Press, its guardian with the Argus eye.
And the offender suffers for his sin.

Strawbcan.

But in the name of heaven, what pledge have I
Given this "Ideal" that's ever on your tongue?
I'm married, have a family, twelve young
And helpless innocents to clothe and keep;
I have my daily calls on every side.
Churches remote and glebe and pasture wide.
Great herds of breeding cattle, ghostly sheep —
All to be watched and cared for, dipt and fed.
Grain to be winnowed, compost to be spread; —
Wanted all day in shippon and in stall.
What time have / to serve the "Ideal" withal?

Falk.

Then get you home with what dispatch you may.
Creep snugly in before the winter-cold;
Look, in young Norway dawns at last the day.
Thousand brave hearts are in its ranks enroil'd.
Its banners in the morning breezes play!

Strawman.

And if, young man, I were to take my way
With bag and baggage home, with everything



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440 LOVE'S COMEDY [act in

That made me yesterday a little king.
Were mine the onty voUeface to-day?
Think you I cany back the wealth I brought ?

[A$ Faul is about to aiww0r*
Nay, listen, let me first explain my thought.

[Coming nearer.
Time was when I was young, like you, and played
like you, the unconquerable Titan's part;
Year after year I toiled and moiled for bread.
Which hardens a man's hand, but not his heart.
For northern fells my lonely home surrounded.
And by my parish bounds my world was bounded.
My home — ^Ah, Falk, I wonder, do you know
What home is?

Falk.
[CurUy.]
I have never known.

Strawman.

Just so*
That is a home, where five may dwell with ease,
Tho' two would be a crowd, if enemies.
That is a home, where all your thoughts play free
As boys and girls about their father's knee.
Where speech no sooner touches heart, than tongue
Darts back an answering harmony of song;
Where you may grow from fiax-haired snowy-poUed,
And not a soul take note that you grow old;
Where memories grow fairer as they fade.
Like far blue peaks beyond the forest glade.

Falk
[Wiih constrained sarca^sm,]
Come, you grow warm —



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ACT in] LOVE'S COMEDY 441

Stbawman.

Where you but jeered and flouted.
So utterly unlike God made us two!
I'm bare of that he lavished upon you.
But I have won the game where you were routed*
Seen from the clouds, full many a wayside grain
Of truth seems empty chaff and husks. You'd soar
To heaven, I scarcely reach the stable door
One bird's an eagle bom —

Falk.

And one a hen.

Strawman.

Yes, laugh away, and say it be so, grant
I am a hen. TTiere clusters to my cluck
A crowd of little chickens, — which you want!
And I've the hen's high spirit and her pluck.
And for my little ones forget myself.
You think me dull, I know it. Possibly
You pass a harsher judgment yet, decree
Me over covetous of worldly pelf.
Good, on that head we will not disagree.

[Seizes Falk's arm and continues in a low tone
bui with gathering vehemence.
You're right, I'm dull and dense and grasping, yes;
But grasping for my God-given babes and wife.
And dense from struggling blindly for bare life.
And dull from sailing seas of loneliness.
Just when the pinnace of my youthful dream
Into the everlasting deep went down.
Another started from the ocean stream
Borne with a fair wind onward to life's crown.



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44£ LOVE'S COMEDY [act m

For every dream that vanished in the wave.

For every buoyant plume that broke asunder,

God sent me in return a little Wonder,

And gratefully I took the good He gave.

For them I strove, for them amassed, annexed* —

For them, for them, explained the Holy text;

My clustering girls, my garden of delight!

On them you've poured the venom of your spite!

You've proved, with all the cunning of the schools.

My bliss was but the paradise of fools,

That all I took for earnest was a jest; —

Now I implore, give me my quiet breast

Again, the flawless peace of mind I had —

Prove, in a word, your title to be glad ?

Strawman.

Yes, in my path you've cast the stone of doubt»
And nobody but you can cast it out.
Between my kin and me you've set a bar, —
Remove the bar, the strangling noose undo —

Falk.

You possibly believe I keep the glue
Of lies for Happiness's broken jar?

Strawman.

I do beUeve, the faith your reasons tore
To shreds, your reasons may again restore;
The limb that you have shatter'd, you can set;
Reverse your judgment, — the whole truth unfold*
Restate the case — I'll fly my banner yet —



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ACT nil LOVE'S COMEDY 443

Falk.
[Haugktily.]
I stamp no copper Happiness as gold.

Strawman.
[Looking fixedly at him.]

Remember then that, lately, one whose scent
For truth is of the keenest told us this:

[With uplifted finger.
"There runs through all our life a Nemesis,
Which may delay, but never will relent."

[He goes towards the house.

Stiver.
[Coming out with glasses on, and an open book in his

hand.]

Pastor, you must come flying like the blast!
Your girls are sobbing —

The Children.
[In the doorway.]

Pa!

Stiver.

And Madam waiting!
[Strawbian goes in.
This lady has no talent for debating.

[Puts the book and glasses in his pocket, and
approaches Falk.
Falk!

Falk.
Yes!



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444 LOVE'S COMEDY [act m

Stiver.
I hope you've changed your mind at last?

Fauc.
Why so?

SnvER.

For obvious reasons. To betny
Communications made in confidence.
Is conduct utterly without defence.
They must not pass the lips.

Falk.

No, I've heard say
It is at times a risky game to play.



SnvBR.



The very devil!



Falk.
Only for the great.

Stiver.

[2seaUni8ly.]

No, no, for all us servants of the state.
Only imagine how my future chances
Would dwindle, if the governor once knew
I keep a Pegasus that neighs and prances
In office hours — and such an office, too!
From first to last, you know, in our profession.
The winged horse is viewed with reprobation:
But worst of all would be, if it got wind
That I against our primal law had sinn'd
By bringing secret matters to the light —



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ACT in] LOVE'S COMEDY 445

Falk.
That's penal, is it — such an oversight?

SnvEB.

[Mysteriously,]

It can a servant of the state compel
To beg for his dismissal out of hand.
On us officials lies a strict command.
Even by the hearth to be inscrutable.

Falk.

O those despotical authorities.

Muzzling the — clerk that treadeth out the grain t

SnvEB.

[Shrugging his shoulders^

It is the law; to murmur is in vain.

Moreover, at a moment such as tiiis.

When salary revision is in train.

It is not well to advertise one's views

Of office time's true function and right use.

That's why I beg you to be silent; look,

A word may forfeit my —

Falk.

Portfolio?

Stiver.

Officially it's called a transcript book;
A protocol's the clasp upon the veil of snow
That shrouds the modest breast of the Bureau.
What lies beneath you must not seek to know.



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446 LOVE'S COMEDY [actiu

Falk.

And yet I only spoke at your desire;
You hinted at your literary crop.

Stiver.

How should I guess he'd grovel in the mire
So deep, this parson perch'd on fortune's top,
A man with snug appointments, children, iriSe,
And money to defy the ills of life ?
If such a man prove such a Philistine,
What shall of us poor copyists be said ?
Of me, who drive the quill and rule the line,
A man engaged and shortly to be wed,
With family in prospect — and so forth?

[More vehemenUjf.
O, if I only had a well-lined berth,
I'd bind the armour'd helmet on my head.
And cry defiance to united earth!
And were I only unengaged like you.
Trust me, I'd break a road athwart the snow
Of Prose, and carry the Ideal through!

Falk.
To woik then, man!

^ Stiver.

How?

Falk.

You may still do so!
Let the world's prudish owl unheeded flutter by;
Freedom converts the grub into a butterfly!



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4LCrni] LOVE'S COMEDY 447

Stiteb.
[Stepping back.]
You mean, to break the engagement — ?

Falk.

That's my nMnd;—
The fruit is gone, why keep the empty rind ?y^

SnvEB.

Such a proposal's for a green young shoot»

Not for a man of judgment and repute.

I heed not what IQng Christian in his time

(The Fifth) laid down about engagements broken*

off;
For that relationship is nowhere spoken of
In any rubric of the code of crime.
The act would not be criminal in name^
Ji would in no way violate the laws —

Falk.
Why there, you see then!

SnvEB.

[Firmly.]

Yes, but all the same, —
I must reject all pleas in such a cause.
Staunch comrades we have been in times of dearth;
Of life's disport she asks but little share.
And I'm a homely fellow, long aware
God made me for the ledger and the hearth.
Let others emulate the eagle's flight.
Life in the lowly plains may be as bright.



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448 LOVE'S COMEDY [Acrm

What does liis Exoellency Groethe say
About the white and shining milkj way ?
Man may not there the milk of fortune skim.
Nor is the butter of it meant for him.

Falk.

Why, even were fortune-churning our life's goal.
The labour must be guided by the soul; —
Be citizens of the time that is — but then
Make the time worthy of the citizen.
In homely things lurks beauty, without doubt.
But watchful eye and brain must draw it out.
Not every man who loves the soil he turns
May therefore claim to be another Bums.

Stiver.

Then let us each our proper path pursue.
And part in peace; we shall not hamper you;
We keep the road, you hover in the sky.
There where we too once floated, she and I.
But work, not song, provides our daily bread.
And when a man's alive, his music's dead.
A young man's life's a lawsuit, and the most
Superfluous litigation in existence:
Withdraw, make terms, abandon all resistance:
Plead where and how you will, your suit is lost.

Falk.

[Bold and confident, wUh a glance at the summer-house.]

Nay, the' I took it to the highest place, —
Judgment, I know, would be reversed by grace!
I know two hearts can live a life complete.



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ACT in] LOVE'S COMEDY 449

With hope still ardent, and with faith still sweet;
You praich the wretched gospel of the hour.
That the Ideal is secondary !

SllVJflH.

No!
It's primary: appointed, like the flower.
To generate the fruit, and then to go.

[Indoors^ Miss Jat plays and sings: **In the
Oloaming** SnvER stands listening in silent
emotion.

With the same melody she calls me yet

Which thrilled me to the heart when first we met

[Lays his hand on Falk's arm and gases in-
tently at him.

Oft as she wakens those pathetic notes.
From the white keys reverberating floats
An echo of the ''yes'' that made her mine.
And when our passions shall one day decline, •
To live again as friendship, to the last
That song shall link that present to this past.
And what tho' at the desk my back grow round.
And my day's work a battle for mere bread.
Yet joy will lead me homeward, where the dead
Enchantment will be bom again in sound.
If one poor bit of evening we can claim,
I shall come off undamaged from the game!

[He goes into the house. Falk turns towarde
the swmmer-house. Svanhild comes outy she
is pale and agitated. They gaze ai each other
in silence a moment, and fling themselvee
impetuously into each other^s arms.



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4S0 LOVE'S COMEDY [act m

Falk.

O, Svanhild, let us battle side by side!

Thou fresh glad blossom flowering by the tomb,-^

See what the life is that they call youth's bloom!

There's coffin-stench of brid^room and of bride;

There's coffin-stench wherever two go by

At the street comer, smiling outwardly.

With falsehood's reeking sepulchre beneath.

And in their blood the apathy of death.

And this they think is living! Heaven and earth»

Is such a load so many antics worth?

For such an end to haul up babes in shoals.

To pamper them with honesty and reason.

To feed them fat with faith one sorry season.

For service, after killing-day, as souls ?

SVANHILD.

Falk, let us travel!

Fauc.

Travel ? Whither, then ?
Is not the whole world everywhere the same ?
And does not Truth's own mirro r in its frame
Lie equally to all the sons of men ?
No, we will stay and watch the merry game»
Tlie conjurer's trick, the tragi-comedy
Of liars that are dupes of their own lie;
Stiver and Lind, the Parson and his dame.
See them, — prize oxen hamess'd to love's yoke.
And yet at bottom very decent folk!
Each wears for others and himself a mask.
Yet one too innocent to take to task;
Each one, a stranded sailor on a wreck.
Counts himself happy as the gods in heaven;



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ACT III] LOVE'S COMEDY 451

Each his own hand from Paradise has driven.
Then, splash! into the sulphur to the neck!
But none has any inkling where he lies.
Each thinks himself a knight of Paradise,
And each sits smiling between howl and howl;
And if the Fiend come by with jeer and growl.
With horns, and hoofs, and things yet more ab-
horred, —
Then each man jogs the neighbour at his jowl:
'" Off with your hat, man! See, there goes the Lord!''

SVANHILD.

[After a brief, thoughtfid eUence.]

How marvellous a love my steps has led

To this sweet trysting place! My life that sped

In frolic and fantastic visions gay.

Henceforth shall grow one ceaseless working day!

O God! I wandered groping, — all was dim:

Thou gavest me light — and I discovered him!

[Oozing at Falk in love and wonder.
Whence is that strength of thine, thou mighty tree
That stand'st unshaken in the wind-wrecked wood»
That stand'st alone, and yet canst shelter me — ?

Falk.
God's truth, my Svanhild; — ^that gives fortitude.

SVANHILD.

\With a shy glance towards the hotise.]

They came like tempters, evilly inclined.
Each spokesman for his half of humankind,
One asking: How can true love reach its goal
When riches' leaden weight subdues the soul?



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458 LOVE^ COMEDY Ucr m

The other asking: How can true love speed
When life's a battle to the death with Need ?

horrible! — ^to bid the world receive
That teaching as the truth, and yet to live!

Falk.
How if 'twere mtont for us ?

SVANHILD.

For us ?— What, then ?
Can outward faith control the wills of men ?

1 have already said: if thou 'It stand fast,
I'll dare and suffer by thee to the last.
How light to listen to the gospel's voice.

To leave one's honie behind, to weep, rejoice.
And take with God the husband of one's choice!

Falk.

[Embracing her.]

Come then, and blow thy worst, thou winter weather!


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Online LibraryEdmund GosseThe collected works of Henrik Ibsen, Volume 1 → online text (page 19 of 21)